It’s hard to believe Ash Wednesday is this week! Our church is having an Ash Wednesday service, and that brings back childhood memories. It was a big deal back then, as we always went to Ash Wednesday service and received the ashes. I remember wanting to wash them off. I didn’t understand their true meaning. The phrase “from dust to dust” sounded scary and I didn’t want to think about death. (Thank goodness for spiritual maturity!)
Facts About Ash Wednesday
Pope Gregory I (about 600 AD) is credited as the first person to mark the foreheads of his congregation with ashes to begin Lent. He spoke the words “For you are dust, and to dust, you will return” as he applied the ashes. These are the same words that God said to Adam in Genesis 3:19 after the first sin was committed and physical death became our reality. These words were to symbolize not only our need for repentance but also our mortality.
How to Fight Sin
Ash Wednesday gives us a chance to begin the season by reflecting on and acknowledging remorse for our sin. It can begin a time of a deeper self-reflection and taking an honest inventory of our lives.
I have Psalm 139: 23-24 embedded in my morning prayer time. I normally use it to tamp down my anxiety issues, but it lends itself to self-reflection as well. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” I will linger on the “point out anything in me that offends you” part to do a more thorough job of identifying the sin in my life.
If you commit to a time of deeper reflection, spend some time in prayer before you begin the process.
God made each one of us spectacularly different, with our own personal strengths and weaknesses. He will lead you to the areas of struggle in your life.
Focusing on Our Relationship with Jesus
Christ lives in us and we are called to be conformed to his image. We can work towards that goal by spending time reflecting on our 1:1 relationship with Jesus.
•How much of my time do I give to him?
• How often do I read his word?
• What does my worship look like??
• How much time do I spend in prayer?
•Do I go to him first with my struggles?
•How is my relationship with others?
•Do I show the Fruits of the Spirit? Are there particular ones where I fall short? I find these are great attributes to meditate on.
•How is my world of free time, work environment, neighborhood, or service work reflecting Godly living?
•Temptations and desires can lead to sin. Where do I notice these issues in my own life?
How To Deal With Sin
Identifying where our sin lies is a great first step.
Admit that they defeat you. I love the encouragement I get from Paul when he says, “The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” Romans 7:15. That’s me!
Confession and Forgiveness
We’re a work in progress, right? God doesn’t expect perfection, but he does want a heart that is turning to him. Ash Wednesday nudges me to remember the scope of my sinful nature. My own mortality is highlighted in the words “from dust to dust.” I want to be more conscious of my sin and turn from it with a renewed spirit. This season reminds me of how much Jesus sacrificed for sins he never committed. Sins that are mine; I deserve their punishment. I want to examine my life honestly and firmly commit to change.
In all the talk of sin, punishment, and mortality don’t forget the Good News part of Ash Wednesday.
The Good News
Yes, we are mortal; “from dust to dust” is a reality. Yes, it is a solemn time. But it is not a time without joy as well. God redeemed us with His grace and mercy. Jesus paid my debt! Just as my childhood attitudes towards sin and death have matured, so has my true appreciation for the sacrifice of Jesus. As we lead up to Easter in the weeks of Lent, Ash Wednesday starts us off with a reminder not just of our mortality, but the joy of eternal life to come!
Prayer of Confession
You formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed him to life. Choosing sin over obedience led to the curse of our physical death. In your loving-kindness, you chose not to leave us there but give us redemption through your Son. Lord, we confess that sin is a daily battle. Time and again we choose to sin, yet incredibly, you still gaze at us with love. We are yours through Jesus. We thank you for this indescribable gift. Help us to look into our lives and see where we can improve in our relationship with you and for you.
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